Stellenbosch University Choir

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Stellenbosch University Choir
Founding 1936
Genre Varied
Members 80–140
Affiliation Stellenbosch University

7th World Choir Games, Cincinnati, USA (2012):

  • Category: Mixed Choirs, 93.55 (Gold: Category Winner)
  • Category: Musica Sacra, 96.88 (Gold: Category Winner)
  • Category: Popular Choral Music, 91.25 (Gold: Runner-up)

8th World Choir Games, Riga, Latvia (2014):

  • Category: Mixed Choirs, 99.00 (Gold: Category Winner)
  • Category: Musica Sacra with Accompaniment, 95.68 (Gold: Category Winner)
  • Category: Spirituals, 98.38 (Gold: Category Winner)

Stellenbosch University Choir (Afrikaans: Stellenbosch Universiteitskoor) is a Choir attached to Stellenbosch University. Founded in 1936, it is the oldest choir in South Africa.[1] The current conductor, André van der Merwe, was appointed at the beginning of 2003.[2] The Stellenbosch University Choir has toured overseas extensively and won critical acclaim for its performances.[3] The choir is viewed as a leading South African choral ensemble.[4]

In the South African context, it becomes increasingly important for the choir to reach out to choirs in less fortunate communities.[5] During 2005 and 2006 the choir hosted an orphan children's choir from Kayamandi – not only teaching music skills to the children, but also making the University Choir aware of the value of community service. In 2013, the choir built on its foundation of social responsibility by hosting a cleanup project at nearby beaches.


The choir was founded in 1936 by William Morris and has established itself as one of the best choirs in South Africa and the world.[6][7]

Being the oldest continually running choir in the country, the Stellenbosch University Choir has a rich legacy that is celebrated by old members every five years at the reunion. The last reunion was in 2011 and marked the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the choir. The reunion was attended by over 300 members, both past and present, and from all the corners of the world.[8]

The current as well as future success of the choir depends largely on the unique heritage and spirit within the choir community which is supported by the choir members, family and friends, as well as the more recently established Stellenbosch University Choir Fund.[9]

List of conductors[edit]


As of October 2014 the choir is ranked as the best amateur choir in the world by Interkultur, as well as being in the top ten list for the following categories (rank): Mixed Choirs (1), Sacred Music & Music of the Religions (1), Pop, Jazz, Gospel, Spiritual and Barbershop Choirs (1) and Children's and Youth Choirs (8).[10] Between 2000 and 2014, the only international competition attended by the Stellenbosch University Choir has been the World Choir Games, which is the largest event of its kind in the world.


The 8th World Choir Games in Riga, Latvia took place in June 2014, where the choir entered three categories, namely Mixed Choirs, Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) with Accompaniment and Spirituals. The Stellenbosch University Choir were crowned as champions in all three categories, making them the first choir to win more than 2 categories at any World Choir Games,[11] as well as the first choir to receive a flawless result from more than one judge. The choir also broke their own previously-held record for the highest score achieved in World Choir Games history, first with a 98.38 for Spirituals, and then again with 99.00 for Mixed Choirs.[12] Upon returning to Stellenbosch, the choir ended off the year with their customary Gala Concerts in the Endler Hall.

Earlier in the year, the choir performed several pieces at the memorial service of the rector of Stellenbosch University, prof. Russel Botman, whose support played a critical role in the choir's successes.


As was now tradition for years in which no World Choir Games are hosted, the choir participated in a small national tour to Johannesburg, to attend the biennial KUESTA choral festival for South African university choirs. Hosted by the University of Johannesburg in 2013, this festival highlights the different approaches that every participating choir has regarding their music, and celebrates the diversity of music.

Other minor performances by the choir include a performance at the annual Genadendal arts festival, the traditional Lunch Hour concerts in the Endler Hall, and a performance in the SASOL Art Gallery.


At the 7th World Choir Games in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, the choir participated in three categories, namely Mixed Choirs, Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) and, for the first time,[13] Popular Choral Music. Here the choir received the title of "Champion of the World Choir Games" for two of these categories: Mixed Choirs with 93.50 points and Musica Sacra with 96.88 points as well as receiving a gold medal, and coming second, in the Popular Choral Music category with 91.25 points.[14]

Not only was their score of 96.88 points in Musica Sacra the highest in the category, but also the highest score ever attained by any choir in any category at the World Choir Games.[15]


2011 saw a tour to the Southern Cape[16] as well as a successful visit to the University of Pretoria for the bi-annual KUESTA choral festival.[17] The choir also held their 75th reunion over the first weekend of September 2011, which was attended by over 300 former members of the choir.[8] An album, 2011 in Concert was also released, containing live performance recordings made in the Endler Hall during a Gala concert and in the Musaion at the University of Pretoria during KUESTA.[18]


From 15 to 26 July 2010, Shaoxing hosted more than 20 000 choristers from 472 choirs and 83 countries.[19] South Africa was represented by three choirs: Stellenbosch University Choir, Tygerberg Children's Choir and Kearsney College Choir.[20]

The Choir took part in the World Choir Games in Shaoxing, China, in July, and won the "Champion of the World Choir Games" title in two categories. They received 95.75 for the category: Mixed Choirs and 90.88 for the category: Musica Contemporanea (Contemporary Music).[21] Stellenbosch University Choir received the highest score (95.75) of any choir participating in the competition, in the category for which they competed against 28 other choirs.[22]


In July 2008, the choir participated in the World Choir Games[23] in Graz, Austria, where they received a gold medal in each of the three categories in which they participated. The choir was amongst 22 other choirs from South Africa who were selected to participate in this competition of more than 400 choirs. They won the category "Musica Sacra: Open Category" with 92.13 points and placed second in the category "Gospel & Spiritual" with 92.13 points. In the category "Mixed Youth Choirs", the choir came in fourth with 85.25 points.[24]

At the end of August 2008 the Choir was ranked as the top choir in the category Musica Sacra (Sacred Music) and the fourth best choir overall in the world according to the Musica Mundi World Ranking List![25]


In September 2007 the Stellenbosch University Choir hosted a choral festival (KUESTA) where South African university choirs gathered in Stellenbosch for a weekend of choral music.[26]


In September 2006 the Stellenbosch University Choir celebrated 70 years of choral activities with a reunion – 400 former members attended the festive occasion. This reunion was living testimony to the positive impact that the choir has had on choral activities in South Africa since 1936.[26]


In July 2004, the choir won the category "Youth Choirs" at the World Choir Games in Bremen, Germany with 93.13 points.[27]

A definite highlight for the choir in 2004 was their participation with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra in Sinfonia Africana by Capetonian composer Hendrik Hofmeyr.[28] This groundbreaking[29] symphony (with an Afrikaans text) is scored for soprano, choir and orchestra.


Every year, the Choir sets out to improve on work done during the previous year. In this respect, there is a definite focus on assembling the repertoire. The repertoire usually incorporates pieces that aim to inspire both the choir members as well as the general audience, and to prepare the choir for future performances and events such as the World Choir Games.[30]

With international events such as these, the repertoire mainly consists of pieces specifically selected to contribute to the overall success of the choir in the specific category of participation. These pieces are often vocally and artistically challenging as well as innovative and unique, with a major focus on modern compositions and uniquely adapted classical favourites.

Recorded media[edit]

The Stellenbosch University Choir usually records their full repertoire at the end of each year, normally in September, in the modern Endler Hall at the Conservatory of the University of Stellenbosch. The goal is to release an album every two years, although some exceptions have been made. Other recordings include live concert recordings and are usually sold for a limited time after the recorded performance. These usually include only some of the works prepared as part of the year's repertoire.[31]

Studio Albums[edit]

Live Albums[edit]


  1. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir". Retrieved 2 March 2007. 
  2. ^ "USK Conductor". 
  3. ^ "Stellenbosch University Department of Music". 
  4. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir". Retrieved 2 March 2007. 
  5. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir Disassembly Cancelled". 
  6. ^ a b "USK History". 
  7. ^ "USK Today". 
  8. ^ a b "USK 75th Reunion". 
  9. ^ "USK Fund". 
  10. ^ "Interkultur World Ranking List". Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "USK at the World Choir Games -- Breaking records as never before". 
  12. ^ "World Choir Games 2014 Results". 
  13. ^ "Press release: 2012 World Choir Games achievement". 
  14. ^ "Results: 2012 World Choir Games" (PDF). 
  15. ^ "New World (Choir Games) Record!". 
  16. ^ "USK tour to PE". 
  17. ^ "KUESTA – USK". 
  18. ^ "2011 in Concert". 
  19. ^ Retrieved 16 August 2010
  20. ^ Retrieved 16 August 2010
  21. ^ "Results: 2010 World Choir Games" (PDF). 
  22. ^ title = Results: 2010 World Choir Games Retrieved 16 August 2010
  23. ^ "Musica Mundi: World Choir Games". Retrieved 9 August 2008. 
  24. ^ "Results: 2008 World Choir Games" (PDF). Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  25. ^ "World Choir Games Top 10". Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  26. ^ a b "Stellenbosch University Choir Home Page". 
  27. ^ "Results: 2004 World Choir Games" (PDF). Retrieved 30 August 2010. 
  28. ^ "Hendrik Hofmeyr". 
  29. ^ "Synfonia Africana". 
  30. ^ "USK Repertoire". 
  31. ^ "Stellenbosch University Choir Recordings". Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  32. ^ Somerkersfees| Stellenbosch University Choir
  33. ^ Headline | Stellenbosch University Choir
  34. ^ Laudate | Stellenbosch University Choir
  35. ^ Illumina | Stellenbosch University Choir
  36. ^ Sinfonia Africana | Stellenbosch University Choir
  37. ^ 2011 Recordings | Stellenbosch University Choir
  38. ^ 2010 Recordings | Stellenbosch University Choir